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Alien Legacy is a game that was released for the PC in 1994 that places the player in the role of the captain of the UNS Calypso, a colonization ship sent from Earth to colonize the Beta Caeli system amid a war with an alien race called the Centurians. The game is a turn-based strategy in which the goal is to explore and set up colonies on the different habitative planets in the system while uncovering the mystery of your ship's predecessor, the UNS Tantalus, which attempted colonization of the system itself but has since left only ruins.
The player plays the role the Calypso's captain and assumes direct control over all operations in the colonization process. If games such as Civilization and Galactic Civilizations are examples of 4X gameplay then Alien Legacy would be a 3X. There are no other players in the game or even computer-controlled AI factions to content with. Instead, the player simply expands colonies, explores the system and exploits the planetary resources unchallenged by any formal opposing faction. In this sense the challenge of the game is not to overcome another faction that is in direct competition with the player but rather to overcome the environment itself during the process of colonization. As the player progresses through the main storyline through exploration and turn lapses certain challenges and obstacles present themselves to provide objectives beyond the stresses of simple micromanagement.
The game operates on the basis of turns. Every action in the game has a time to completion based on a number of turns. The player can manually set the speed at which a turn passes which allows for a variable passage of time thus making much of the micromanagement in the game more manageable.
The player is responsible for 3 main functions throughout the course of the game: colony management and resource production, exploration of the planets' surfaces for clues about the Tantalus's fate and resources and finally, technological advancement. Colony micromanagement operates in much the same way base building does in traditional strategy games. The player uses resources to create structures that can create more resources or consume existing ones for other useful purposes such as scientific advancement, ship construction etc. As each colony grows so too does its output as well as its demands. Some colonies are better at producing certain essential resources than others. For example, orbital colonies around the Gas Giants can siphon off the gas for extra energy production but must have their ore transported in from terrestrial colonies. Exploration is performed by sending probe ships to other planets in the system and then performing exploration missions in certain sectors of the planet. Oftentimes the game will provide the player with a set of coordinates that contain some sort of anomaly. The player can then send a ship to that sector to perform a thorough examination. When examining a sector the game becomes a very rudimentary flight sim with the player in direct control of the ship flying over the ground. Basic resources such as ore and energy are often found here and are collectible for later use back at the colonies. Certain features of the terrain oftentimes also provide scientific bonuses (such as a natural rock formation creating a perfect sundial giving a boost to astronomy or a newly discovered species of 5-eyed fish to biology). Ruins of the deceased Tantalus colonists' structures can also be found and are often linked with the progression of the main storyline. The technological advancement aspect of the game forms the 3rd main component of the gameplay albeit considerably smaller than the previous two. The game has scientific study represented by a series of science resources representing the different fields of research. Once the player has unlocked the possibility for a new technology (either through a discovery of Tantalus wreckage, progress of other technologies or just the passage of time) then they may spend available technological resources to research it (for example, a new type of computer may require a lot of mathematics, electronics and physics while a new way to improve life-support capabilities may require biology, chemistry and electronics).
Throughout the game the player is constantly in contact with his/her advisers. There are four main advisers: science, military, colony and navigation as well as a robot with access to the ship's computer. Each will offer basic tutorial advice as well as opinions on the proper course of action and information regarding special events.
In the mid 21st century Humanity makes contact with an alien race from the Alpha Centauri system that, though is technologically roughly on par with humanity, is much more aggressive than humanity and immediately starts a war. This war continues for several decades until it appears that humanity is not going to win. In a last ditch attempt to ensure the survival of the human race several sporeships are sent from Earth to colonize other star systems away from Centuian control. Each of these ships is extremely fuel efficient, have a large number or cryogenically frozen colonists on board and are to assume that all of the other ships have been destroyed. The UNS Calypso was launched to colonize the Beta Caeli system. Another ship, the UNS Tantalus, was launched sometime after the Calypso and headed to the same system but due to the improvement in engine technology it would arrive 21 years before the Calypso.
Upon arrival, the Calypso finds the ruins of the Tantalus's colonies and no survivors of whatever fate they suffered.